RSL vs. LA Galaxy

In a rematch of last years’ MLS final, Real Salt Lake took on the LA Galaxy to a sold out home crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. With key players from both teams playing on the United States World Cup team, I knew it would be an interesting match. RSL picked up the pace and stayed consistent for almost the whole match making numerous attempts on goal before Javier Morales scored the match winning point in the second half (photograph below).


I love shooting soccer, partly because I identify with the sport from playing through most of my childhood. The last year of RSL soccer has really been exciting to watch as the team has started to get the recognition they deserve. I had the opportunity to shoot a home game last season against Seattle Sounders FC and had been longing to get another taste of the action.

Knowing that I may not ever get another field pass I seized the opportunity to try something a little different for the game against Galaxy. I looked at all the photographs I could find from field photographers at RSL home games and found a perspective that seemed to missing: behind the goal. A little known feature of the popular Pocket Wizard Plus II radio triggers is the ability to fire a camera from a remote position via a pre-trigger cable into the camera’s cable release port.

A simple Manfrotto Super-Clamp to the barrier behind the goal, a Nikon D300, and a wide lens and I had my remote goal capture setup. I popped my triggering Pocket Wizard on top of the D3 I was hand holding and waited for the opportunity to try it out. As RSL players would close the ball in for potential strikes I would quickly flick the PW on and a shot from the D3 produced a simultaneous shot on the remote D300. Pretty cool stuff.


So why am I so frustrated by this? Invariably a technique you’ve never tried will have some kinks to it, something you didn’t foresee while you were planning. My problems were two fold:

1. Lens not wide enough. While it was close, 18mm couldn’t quite cover the entire goal edge to edge meaning that in order to cover one extreme corner of the goal I had to give up coverage on the other. Go wide or go home if you try this. Ideally I’d rock the 10.5 DX fisheye on the D300 if that had been an option or a 14mm lens on an FX body.

2. Buffer differential. Not only does the D3 have a faster continuous frame rate, it has a larger image buffer than the D300 (9fps to 6fps on continuous high). Begin a burst to early on the D3 and I could easily run the buffer out on the remote camera before the decisive moment while still having headroom on the D3′s buffer. Ideally this setup would be fun with matching camera bodies and cards ensuring that both are producing and writing images at the same rate all the time.


I bring these things up because they caused me to miss several awesome photographs. Morales’s winning kick which you see above has a companion shot out of the remote camera. The reason you aren’t seeing that shot is because I picked the wrong corner of the goal to focus the remote camera on. It was only off by a matter of inches, you can see the net curving back with the force of the ball hitting it while the Galaxy goal keeper lays on the ground looking back. Inches separated me from the perfect capture and the missed shot I have.


Several other exciting close calls by RSL strikers were missed by the remote camera because of a full image buffer. So close, but so far. I really wish I could go back for the rest of the season and perfect this stuff, because nobody else was trying it and I loved the perspective; but alas, I do not have the hookups in that department. I’m pretty proud of a few of the captures I did manage to get and to see the whole set you can visit me here.

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